String of unopposed SA elections disturbing, wrong
April 3, 2006 —
I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but Student Association elections were supposed to occur last week. The reason elections were not held last week is because there were not enough candidates running to fill all 20 positions. So, the election was postponed until this week and now there are 27 people running for 20 positions.
Problem solved, right? Wrong.
The sum of applicants confirms the student body's political apathy and SA's failure to engage them. The postponement also failed to fix one major problem: a lack of competition for SA president. This is the third consecutive year that a candidate for SA president has run unopposed. Once is a fluke, but three times in a row is a dangerous trend. While it is a natural promotion from speaker of the house to president, presidential candidate Andy Suszek seems a little too comfortable.
Perhaps he is comfortable because current president Emily Hammerbacher has been virtually invisible for the entire winter semester, allowing Suszek to take the spotlight with photo opportunities at events and quotes in the newspaper. Perhaps this is why the title of President can be heard prematurely attached to Suszek's name as one walks down the hallway that connects the SA and Valley Vanguard offices. Being elected by fellow representatives last year to be Speaker essentially sealed his fate as Hammerbacher's successor and renders this week's Presidential election inconsequential.
In any political body, social interactions shape electoral outcomes. However, fraternization often becomes so severe that one must question the legitimacy of democratic government. If one visited an off-campus location, they might see the current Speaker and President (and of course other representatives) socializing. And while there is surely nothing wrong with being friends or acquaintances with colleagues, the fact that such interaction can be traced back to Hammerbacher's predecessor, Armen Hratchian, is slightly suspicious, considering the circumstances.
When Hratchian became President three years ago, with no prior political experience and by defeating an experienced SA representative, it put a stop to competitive presidential elections. I don't mean to attack any of these people personally, I'm just stating the facts and asking why this is the case. Even though voting occurred, there has not been a true democratic election for SA president since Hratchian won initially. Even if no wrongdoing occurred, the situation is problematic when it happens annually. It seems to be the case that the only requirement to become SA president is to befriend the right people and become popular, something easily done by pandering to constituents through suggesting changes to SVSU's alcohol policy.
SA has failed to accomplish a commonly stated goal of making SA more connected with the student body, and the only solution offered is to stay the course. If one is curious about next year's presidential race, pay close attention to internal voting that determines officers and the relationships that form within SA over the next year (if they have not formed already).
The next president will likely be someone in good standing with Suszek and not someone who offers a plan for change or improvement. Typically, nobody within SA is brave enough to risk their safe seat as a representative to challenge for president and no outsiders are popular enough to challenge the "incumbent."
Perhaps SA should officially change its structure from a presidential system to a parliamentary system: electing the executive internally and forgoing the sham of a presidential election.